Tribute to Jerry Savage

March 22nd, 2014
by Tom Herlihy

Grave Side oration By Tom Herlihy

A Chairde go léir. I am humbled to be asked to say a few words at the graveside as we say goodbye to a great Irishman, Kerryman, Ballymacelligott man & a great republican. Those republican ideals were with Jerry until he drew his last breath on last Saturday afternoon.

I have known Jerry all my life. He has been always a great friend, very genuine & sincere.He was very committed in everything he got involved in be it politics, sport, the Irish emigrants in London,friends of Kerry Hospital or neighbors who needed a helping hand. Even though Jerry was 86 years of age he was still young at heart, always smiling, good humored and a great man to give a hop ball in company. Jerry was at home in any company be they young or old. He was great company and could talk on any subject.

Jerry was involved in every community activity in the parish of Ballymacelligott from reviving the GAA club in the 40's,to the building of the Ballyseedy Monument and the Handball Alley in the 50's to the development of the GAA pitch in the 70's. Before the trend of bringing home players was in vogue Jerry came back from London in the early 50's to play with his beloved O'Brennan in the parish league. Some years ago when Tom O'Donohue the then club chairman presented him with the Ballymac team blazer, Jerry was delighted,and wore it with pride on important occasions. He took great pride in the achievements of Ballymac people who excelled in any field be it football, handball, ladies football, athletics or greyhounds. He had a saying, Ballymac yet unconquered.

Jerry was one of the founder members of the Kerry GAA Supporters Club, was a great organizer with great attention to detail and left nothing to chance. He could enjoy himself as good as the next person in a pub even though he was a Pioneer. One day we were returning from a match in Cork and had the misfortune to stop in Macroom, some hours later we were still searching for some of the passengers, they had scattered in all directions. After that Jerry made sure we stopped only in a town or village where there was only one pub. We traveled all over the country with the Kerry GAA Supporters Club to Omagh, Ballinderry, Ballyshannon, Castlebar or where ever the Kerry team played be it London or New York. In all these places there was great respect and a great welcome for Jerry. Whenever we stayed over, part of the trip would be a great singing/music session and Jerry always sang the rebel songs from the cause he ne'er did stray, he sang about his football heroes too,men like the mighty Jack O'Shea. No matter how late the session went on, Jerry would be out early to get Mass on Sunday morning.

He often recalled to me attending the Senior All Ireland football semi-final of 1934 played in the Austin Stack Park Tralee between Kerry & Dublin. He attended mostly every championship game that the county played in from Con Brosnan's time in the 30's to Eoin Brosnan's reign in 2013 – a span of nearly 80 years.

One of the highlights of Jerry's week was to go to Tralee on Monday morning and meet up with his friends Mikey Sheehy or Bomber Liston in Harty's or DerO'Sullivan's and over a cup of tea discuss the happenings of the weekends GAA games. Of all the great footballers that Jerry spoke of, there is no doubt Mikey Sheehy was one of his favorites.

'Get the ball in fast to Mikey, I often heard him call,
As far as Jerry was concerned there was no man as good as Mikey ever kicked a ball.
When Jerry sat up in the stand, to cheer the kingdom home.
He was happier than a king that ever sat on any throne
You were a winner Jerry, you won a million hearts,
From the Hills of Ballymac to the green sward of Croke Park.'

During the past year he did not travel to the away matches. Just three weeks ago when Kerry was playing Mayo in Castlebar, I received a phone call from Jerry at half time, even though the game was live on TV. He still wanted an update from someone who was at the game.

Jerry had a great grá for history, heritage and culture and traveled with us to Rambling Houses all over Munster. He rarely missed a night in Sonny Egan's rambling house and we have great memories of him singing 'The Martyrs who died at Dromboe' or 'My Old Home at the Foot of Slieve Bloom' or dancing a polka set. Only last week when he was in the community hospital in Listowel, he heard that Jim Lyons was opening his Rambling House in Duagh later in the week. Jerry said to Jim why don't you postpone the opening for another week so that I can be there. The morning after the opening which was last Friday the day before he died, a few of his Rambling house friends, Fr. Tom McMahon, Paul Kennelly & Thomas Costelloe called to see him in hospital. Jerry wanted a blow by blow account of who was there and wanted to know the happenings of the evening. That shows you the interest he had in people and place right up to the end.

Jerry the time has come to say our last farewell.
"The tears have all been shed now; we've said our last goodbyes,
Your soul been blessed, your laid to rest, and now we feel alone,
You were more than just a neighbor, a teacher, my best friend,
And you'll still be heard in the songs we shared, when I play them on my own"

May the sod lay lightly on your gentle breast.

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